In honor of US Women’s History Month (observed annually each March) and International Women’s Day (observed annually on March 8th), we’re joining Empowered — Red Ventures’ women’s employee resource group (ERG) — in celebrating some of the incredible women on our teams around the globe.
First up: Allconnect Digital Designer Natalie Brown! Empowered member and RV Senior Content Strategist Jasmine Clark sat down (virtually) with Natalie to learn more about her DEI work, her design work, and what it’s like to be a woman of color working in digital marketing and tech. Check out their conversation below!
When I think of women who speak their minds unapologetically, lead majestically with confidence, and use their lives to move forward entire movements, I think of many fierce role models. And when I think of such women at RV, Natalie Brown is one of the first to come to mind.
When I met Natalie, one of my first impressions of her was one of admiration. In a team meeting, I watched her directly and candidly provide feedback during a design session. I remember the way she delicately and gracefully provided a constructive critique that improved the overall design and moved the team forward. I remember thinking, “Wow, I love how authentic she is.” That ended up being an accurate early impression of Natalie — and my experiences with her from that day forward have continued to reflect that.
Natalie is the teammate you always need. She makes the hard calls, supports the team, tells it like it is, and follows up with words of encouragement and motivation. I’m so grateful to have had her as a teammate and, now, as a friend.
It was a no-brainer to nominate Natalie as our inaugural Empowered featured thought leader. I wanted to know more about her journey here at Red Ventures as an impactful driver of several diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and team-building initiatives and how her identity as a woman of color has shaped her career.
Jasmine Clark: You’ve been around RV for a while. What’s your primary role, and what does an average day at RV look like for you?
Natalie Brown: I play a bit of a Hybrid Design role on our Allconnect brand team. I’ve worked on projects involving UI, UX, Product, Print, and Video. I appreciate my role because that means there’s rarely a dull moment in what I’m able to work on.
JC: You’re involved in everything from DEI work with The Bridge (RV’s Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander (BILAP) ERG) to team building workshops. How do you balance extracurricular activities at RV with your job as a designer?
NB: Balancing extracurriculars at RV has worked because of time management and communicating with my team, leaders, and PM. I appreciate that my former Director is aware of the importance of DEI initiatives and saw it as just as valuable to our team and for RV as a whole.
That foundation has enabled me to continue contributing to these efforts as our leadership team has shifted. I’ve also been told on several occasions that I work quickly as a Designer, so, fortunately for me, that allows time to execute both my design requirements, as well as any DEI work I’m passionate about.
JC: How would you describe your experience as a woman — specifically, a woman of color — working in digital marketing and tech?
NB: When it comes to my experience as a woman of color working in digital marketing and tech, the “of color” part has been a lot more challenging than the “woman” part. In most of my work experience before RV, my teams were woman-led. Leaders much higher up the chain were men, but I never felt the brunt of that in my direct role. My direct leaders on Allconnect Utility were also women, which I loved.
Overall, it can be a bit frustrating — and sometimes challenging — as a woman of color in this space, but I’ve never been one to be afraid to shake tables for the betterment of something. At the end of the day, I’m going to ensure that myself and people who look like me are seen, heard, and respected — period.
JC: Diving deeper: What do you think are the most challenging aspects of being a woman of color in your field?
NB: As far as challenges, I’d say two things:
- Showing up to work as my full, honest self can be challenging.
Generally speaking, many times, there’s an unspoken pressure to assimilate to the majority culture that surrounds you, and there’s a temptation to lessen yourself to make others feel comfortable. It’s definitely uncomfortable, and I have been trying to become more intentional in my own work-life to ensure my white and/or male-identifying co-workers are aware of differences that exist when working with diverse groups of people.
One of the biggest barriers I’ve experienced in my work-life is the false notion that different is wrong when, in reality, it’s just that — different. It’s a challenge to be intentional with breaking biases, both pertaining to gender and race, but I’m still sticking with it.
- Lack of respect.
Often, I’ve sat in meetings where women’s voices weren’t being heard. If a woman began to speak, a man would start talking over her or lessening the power of her voice. When a woman does come to the table with confidence and demanding respect, she can be perceived negatively. In the famous words of Lauryn Hill, “baby girl, respect is just a minimum,” so I require that and more.
JC: What about the most rewarding aspects?
NB: The reward of being a woman overall is what makes it rewarding in my field. I often wonder if we, as a people, truly know the power of a woman and what she brings to the world. There’s an innate gift of integrity, heart, strength, willingness, and boldness that comes from women. In us, there’s refuge.
I’m not ashamed of my nurturing spirit, and in that, there’s strength (if it were absent from business, there’d be nothing but chaos). My words have the ability to comfort and empower, and that’s needed, even in the workplace. Women are necessary. We’ve laid the foundations for teamwork and collaboration.
My nature as a woman is what’s rewarding because I will always know that it, especially in man-dominant rooms, will contribute to effective action. There’s a famous quote that says, “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” That’s the reward.
JC: I’ve heard you advocate for transparency around promotions, raises, and lateral moves at RV. Why do you think transparency is so key?
NB: RV has now added a new pillar of “Being the Change We Want to See in the World” to our belief wall. A big part of that is honesty and transparency, which normally doesn’t occur in the corporate space. If we’re going to do this work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, part of the Equity and Inclusion means equality in compensation and job progression. We can only hold others accountable in that area when we know more about how that system operates.
JC: What’s your biggest piece of advice for a woman starting in your field? In other words: What would you tell first-day-at-RV-Natalie if you could go back in time?
NB: I’d first advise “Day 1 Natalie” — and all women starting out — to genuinely get to know as many people as possible and not underestimate the value of relationships. Outside of RV, the vast majority of my opportunities came from who I knew and not just what I knew. Similarly, some of my greatest opportunities and advancements at RV have come from sincerely getting to know people here, and it has been a joy.
I’m kind of known for throwing 1:1 time on people’s calendars throughout the company if the opportunity presents itself. Also, if I ever need something or have questions, I always have people to go to because we’ve cultivated those relationships that enable me to do so.
One of the key reasons I proposed the Black History Month Employee Spotlight concept is because I value getting to know people and encouraging others to do the same. The workplace can sometimes cause people to forget a person’s humanity because everyone is so focused on meeting a number goal. We’re more alike than different, and as we grow more aware of that, it enhances company culture, business, and our overall experiences.
My second piece of advice: Show up as your most honest self from day one. The older I get, the lower my tolerance levels have gotten for conforming to what makes others comfortable. Showing up as my fullest self from the start forces others to accept all that I am from the beginning. Not only that, it’s forging a path for other women of color along the way. As my co-workers adapt to who I am and we work through breaking their biases and any discomforts that may come from it, it will set the stage for the next woman and/or woman of color to be fully accepted in being herself without facing as much resistance.
JC: Now, a few rapid-fire fun questions:
What’s your favorite food?
NB: I’ve been vegan for 6.5 years, so anything vegan. It changes quite regularly, but right now, I’ve been on a vegan pizza kick. (Shoutout to all of the vegan restaurants in Atlanta who take all of my money.)
Who’s your favorite musician?
NB: Erykah Badu (You can’t tell me she’s not my auntie in my head) — Honorable mention: Common
What’s on the top of your bucket list?
NB: As a lover of nature and experiences, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to become a van lifer for a year or two. I want to live more simply and explore as much of the U.S. as possible.
What’s your word-of-the-day (or month, or year)?
Loved this article as much as we did? Keep the Women’s History Month celebration rolling with these pro tips from 13 unstoppable RV women.